Founder’s Landing, Day Two, 0100 (Delivery Time)

Airlock On Delivery Vessel, Helmet On

I was standing just inside the hatch, looking down the barrels of two hand disruptors, each held by an identical crewman. But I was in combat armor; no need for a little thing like that to intimidate me.

“Oh, please!” I said through the suit’s speaker. “It’d take you half an hour to burn through my armor, and that’s if I was polite enough to stand still. Why don’t you put those silly things down and let me finish my delivery?”

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Founder’s Landing, Day Two, Past Midnight

Suit In High Orbit; Strong Stench Of Terror

Gradually, I came out of it to see the face of Founder’s Landing tumbling overhead. A little at a time it started coming back to me; I was… I was… cargo?

OSTRICH TO CARGO, DO YOU COPY, OVER — OSTRICH TO CARGO…

Even as I clicked my mike in response, it came to me I’d been hearing them for a while. Suddenly, I realized where I was and what was happening. I’d passed out after all. I checked the timer — no, still on schedule. Thank the gods.

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Founder’s Landing, Day One, 2350

Airlock In High Orbit; Tinny Taste Of Adrenaline

“You about ready?” Eddie asked. “Your window’s coming up, in about–“

“FIVE MINUTES!” Sanchez’s voice blared over the intercom. Eddie grimaced.

“Yeah, in about five minutes or so. Give or take. Just, you know, kinda guessing at it.” He helped with one of the clamps, checked the holster, and handed me the case. “We’ll be watching for you at the rendezvous in ninety minutes. Don’t miss us, or it’s a long walk back home.”

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Founder’s Landing, Day One, 2325

High Orbit; Smell Of Scorched Insulation And Ozone

Molly’s betrayal hurt, and that’s the truth of it. It was still too close to think about.

But everything else — that Confederate, and then Intel getting involved. The riots, and the raids, and all the explosions… and my own job: moving money secretly offworld, without government knowledge. It all added up, and in a way I didn’t like.

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Founder’s Landing, Day One, 2310

Deserted Mansion, Wrong End Of A Blaster

“They call that desertion. Barring Imperial instructions to the contrary, I’m here ’till I die.”

At that she smiled, and it was lovely indeed. “I’d be only too pleased to help you with that, Martin… dearest Martin,” she said… and pulled the trigger.

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Founder’s Landing, Day One, 2255

Deserted Mansion, Overgrown Grounds

“Well, now; as I live and breathe. Dear Martin it is, and no mistake! And how are you this fine evening?”

Queen Molly in person. That was all I needed. No, seriously; it was: If she had been late, or if my note to her hadn’t arrived, it would have screwed up my plan. Not badly, but enough.

I put on a winning smile and made my best leg. “Milady Queen! Delightful to see you, as always — truly delightful! I do hope you’ve brought some friends with nice strong backs?” I could just see them moving behind her in the murky night. “Excellent. Do come this way.”

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Founder’s Landing, Day One, 2245.

Tunnel,Dark And Musty

I bet she had a pretty smile, but if so she was saving it for someone special and I didn’t qualify. I tried anyway. “The way I see it, you can hide in the tunnel and hope the cops don’t stumble over it, or you can stay in the District until tomorrow and sneak back into the Zone after all this settles down. I know some people–“

“I just bet you do,” she snapped. “I’ll find my own way, thanks!” And then she started walking — the wrong way, back toward the club. I almost let her go, but good sense prevailed.

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Founder’s Landing, Day One, 2200.

The Cypress Club, Broken Glass And Panic

“No, it’s simple, kid,” he said. “We pick up the package, then hop over to the District to pick up the passenger. After that, it’s to orbit and back on a joy ride and we’re done.”

“OahOOOoohhhh! I geddit now! Fine! When we leavin’?” I could have killed him, but I had a job on so instead I finished my coffee. It tasted like dark roasted heaven, which for some reason really pissed me off.

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Founder’s Landing, Day One, 2100.

The Cypress Club, Lush Life Playing

“It’s funny; all the big names just vanished all of a sudden.” Eddie’s eyes narrowed again. “Maybe they know something we don’t.”

I had to admit, it seemed likely. There was definitely something going on; these were some serious names Eddie’d been tossing around, and if anyone could see trouble coming it was them. For another thing, riots just don’t happen all that often in the Empire. Security frowns on them. But what could be behind it? I shook my head. “Above my pay grade,” I said. “I’ve got a job to do.”

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